For the past 12 years, the Fort Collins Musicians Association has organized FoCoMX, an annual music festival that welcomes and celebrates local musicians from northern Colorado. With restrictions on large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s organizers FoCoMX were faced with the unique challenge of creating the very first online iteration of festivals.
For an accompanying piece of the festival, FoCoMX commissioned local artists and designers Jakob Mueller and Chris Jones to create the accompanying Public Trust zine, a collection of artwork, interviews and essays to showcase the musicians featured in this year’s lineup and provide insight into the history of the Fort Collins DIY music scene.
The zine also explores the background to this year’s festival and how the pandemic has affected the sudden and intense integration of technology into our daily lives.
“When we started talking about the overall aesthetic and the theme of the zine and the event as a whole,… we thought a lot about the digital space that everyone was forced to occupy much more heavily,” Jones, said an illustrator, designer and co-creator of the zine.
The illustrations and styling draw heavily on pixel-based computer graphics, embracing the simplistic design of early digital interfaces.
“Overall, (he’s) influenced by the idea of having a virtual music festival and then having a printed zine to go with it,” Mueller, who worked with Jones to create the zine, said.
The objective of the Zine companion of public trust on this 8-bit retro aesthetic is meant to play into the irony of the zine being one of the only uses of mainstream media in a festival made up mostly of digital components.
“The zine and the merch are the only physical aspect of the festival,” Jones said.
With the retro design of the original infographic, both Jones and Mueller was inspired by the graphic design of zines and posters of underground music scenes.
“Right before I started, I started to get interested in the glowing posters from the late ’80s and early’ 90s,” Mueller said. “So these bright colors have caught on.”
The zine pays homage to their many inspirations while aiming to create a unique and modern design that does not seek to completely imitate a specific era or artistic community.
“It’s definitely an interesting combination of many different eras of graphic design”, Mueller mentionned.
Jones also said that many influences that inspire his exterior work have infiltrated the illustrations, such as comic book artist Michael DeForge and illustrator Sam Grinberg.
“I have boxes of zines at home, and I just dig around there and grab stuff that speaks to me depending on the project I’m working on,” Jones mentionned.
For both artists, the zine was a passionate project that was only facilitated by the FoCoMA team.
“The zine is produced with 100% creative autonomy,” Jones said. “You can’t really ask for a better deal than this.”
A non-participatory approach from the festival organizers allowed the couple to approach the project as a reflection of themselves as artists as well as a reflection of the DIY scene that exists in Fort Collins.
“They literally said, ‘Do whatever you want’, and we did it,” Mueller said. “We just made it fun.”
The couple describe the collaboration as an organic exchange of ideas where each artist focused on a different aspect of the zine, with Mueller specializing in typography and layout and Jones create accompanying illustrations.
“Jakob (Mueller) and I knew each other and I was mutual fans of each other’s work, but I never really had a long conversation, ”Jones said. “It was like our excuse to do something together.”
With each artist focusing on different elements of the zine’s production, they were able to blend their distinct artistic styles and influences into a series of cohesive layouts.
“We ended up finding a way to divide the work between us quite evenly,” Jones said. “We were both able to… do things that we were excited and proud of.
This collaboration is evidenced in the two-page art pages that appear throughout the zine as palate cleansers between essays and interviews.
“On the right side, there’s an illustration of Chris (Jones), and on the left, I did a character layout that was in response to Chris’s very emotional and existential illustrations,” Mueller said. “(They) sound really true to the way I’m feeling this year, which is another thing that comes out of this zine; … An expression of how we are feeling and how crazy our lives are right now.
Informed and inspired by the legacy of independent zines and counterculture art that came before it, the Zine companion of public trust comes across as a glimpse into the community, culture and unique works of art created in Fort collins today.
The FoCoMX: Public Trust virtual festival, along with access to the companion zine Public Trust, premiered on April 23 at focoma.org.